back to article RIP: Peak Oil - we won't be running out any time soon

The idea that seized the imaginations of the bien pensant chattering classes in the Noughties – "Peak Oil" – is no longer relevant. So says the commodities team at Citigroup, and policy-makers would be wise to examine the trends they've identified. "Peak Oil" is the point at which the production of conventional crude oil …


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  1. Captain Underpants
    Thumb Down


    So Peak Oil is dead because we've gotten a bit better at extracting the still by-definition limited fuels in question from underground? I'm all for human ingenuity as a solution to the problem, but I'd much prefer a renewable option, eg those clever folk in California working on genetically-modified bacteria that can photosynthesize hydrocarbons.

    I think you and I have different ideas of what the point of Peak Oil actually *was*, Andrew.

    1. itzman

      'Renewables' still doesnt stack up numbers wise.

      The actual solar flux is not really enough to give mankind what it wants without dedicating absolutely enormous tracts of land or sea to growing whatever biofuel or not we deem we need.

      The last time we did this sort of thing was the invention of agriculture, of which it has been said '"The deserts of the middle east and North Africa are the direct result of 10,000 years of organic farming" .

      Renewable energy (so called) has an enormous environmental impact - comparable at least to the total destruction of Brazilian rain forest for farming and the like, so beloved of ecotards.

      One can imagine a plankton floating in the seas and oceans..but to generate a fraction of the fuel we need would mean HUGE oceansful of it, with an impact that is totally incalculable - till some lunatic actually lest it loose.

      And since so called "renewable energy" is, in the end nothing more then nuclear energy by proxy, why not cut out the middle man and build the nuclear reactors instead?

      Far less damaging to the environment

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


        Yes, silly 'ecotards' for liking rainforests. We should burn these worthless things right away, because people who think they are good are retarded.

        I think maybe the thing here that is a 'tard' is your argument.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          @Loyal Commenter

          Erm, you might want to read the post before unleashing castigation.

          ltzman was pointing out that large-scale "renewables" of all current technologies requires destruction of similar orders of magnitude as cutting down the Brazilian rainforests for farming - something that is generally considered a bad idea.

          On a small scale they seem ok, even useful - solar panels on your roof, couple of wind turbines nearby, tidal generator in a couple of easy and effective places, the odd field of biofuel.

          The trouble happens once you start to scale it up to the kinds of size a country needs - solar, wind and biofuels use massive land area, tidal destroys very large intertidal habitat, and then all except biofuels require near-equal capacity generation to be on warm or even hot standby - burning plenty of gas or biofuels to do sweet FA in case the wind drops/sun goes behind clouds and spun up in time for sunset/tide change.

          Unless of course you're ok with the idea of simply blacking out large parts of the country very often, and probably doing a cold start of the Grid once or twice a year. Hint - we've never done a cold start, and don't really know if we even can.

          The only current "zero-carbon" technology that doesn't require large-scale destruction is nuclear fission.

          Funny that.

          1. James Micallef Silver badge
            Thumb Up


            Agree 100% that it's stupid to cut down huge swathes of rainforest to build windmills, and in general, yes, alternative energy produces very low energy densities and needs vast tracts of land. And I also agree 100% that we should go nuclear in a big way. However I don't completely diss renewables as there are still many applications / locations that can have a huge energy production potential.

            The Sahara is more than 9mln km^2 and gets f**kloads of sunlight. Even covering just a tiny fraction of that it solar panels would be enough for the energy needs of most African countries north of the equator. That's the energy needs of close to half a billion people, a bit more than 7% of worldwide population. Similair things can also be done in places such as Australia, Atacama, North American midwest, Gobi...

            1. Ammaross Danan

              Re: @Richard12

              Renewables have their place. The Gobi, Sahara, most of Southwest USA, etc for solar (and wind in some cases). Solar is more likely than wind turbines to give decent returns. Wave (tidal) turbines are a good start too, but the best move forward would be nuclear plants. With huge amounts of electricity available at fractions of the cost of power today, electric-only cars, trains, equipment, etc would take off in a big way. Imagine proximity chargers (induction or otherwise) under parking stalls at Walmart (or just plugs, either way), down freeway stretches, at the employee parking at work, etc. Your furnace would be electric rather than gas. Hot water would be electric rather than gas. Another big thing would be the readily available electricity for the fusion reactor experiments, since those take the power of an entire city (or more!) to actually get the reactor jump-started (and running, since they're not self-sustaining yet).

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Richard12

              "And I also agree 100% that we should go nuclear in a big way".

              Nice to know. I'm sure if you were to submit your address as a proposed site for a nuclear power station, your neighbours may not agree with you. And I'm guessing you really wouldn't be too keen on the idea yourself, if you're really honest.

              1. Fibbles

                Re: Re: @Richard12

                I agree that you will find that most people - no matter how vocal in their support for nuclear - do not wish to have a reactor built next door. Then again you will also find that most people don't wish to have any sort of power station built next door even though they're likely to agree that power stations in general are a good idea.

                Is it really any surprise that people don't want massive industrial sites built near their homes?

            3. Mobius007

              Re: @Richard12

              "alternative energy produces very low energy densities and needs vast tracts of land"

              Well, here's a practical example to counter your hypothesis. I've got a 4 Kw solar grid-tied array. It occupies a 13 x 30 foot patch of my roof. It's not noticeable, makes no noise, emits nothing but power, and it provides all the electricity my family uses over the course of a year.

              So, how "impractical" are alternative energy sources? For many, many people alternative energy is VERY practical.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          burn these worthless rainforests

          Great idea, but they're buggers to set light !

          Too damp from all the rain, you see...

      2. sisk

        Re: 'Renewables' still doesnt stack up numbers wise.


        That depends upon which renewable you're looking at and which technologies you use in it's production. Enough algae for enough biofuel to supply the entire United States could be grown on land equivalent to the size of New Mexico. That's still a good chunk of land, I grant you that's still a lot of land, but nowhere near what it would take to accomplish the same job with solar or wind.

        Also, renewables are just as subject, if not moreso, to technological advances. Solar power WILL get more efficient if we put some effort into improving it, just as pulling oil out of the ground will.

      3. Mobius007

        Re: 'Renewables' still doesnt stack up numbers wise.

        As someone who has a grid-tied solar array, solar works very well for me:

        The solar array is sized so that it covers my entire annual electrical use. I'm considering adding another 8 panels to cover the annual power requirements to "fuel" a Volt for 10,000 miles of driving per year.

        It's that simple. So, while solar is not the full answer to society's power need, it can be a very good option for many, many Americans - especially those who are independent-minded, and prefer not to rely on others.

    2. Ragarath
      Thumb Down

      Reading Comprehension.

      I take it you read the article and therefore the part where Andrew mentioned that in a decade the Syntetic Hydrocarbon business will be amping up to replace oil?

      Thought not.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Reading Comprehension.

        Synthetic hydrocarbons, whilst promising for the future are not necessarily a panacea. To produce these requires an energy input of at least the amount that can be gained from burning them. In practice, due to the laws of thermodynamics, the input will be greater than the output. Synthetic hydrocarbons, then, are a potential answer to energy storage, but the generation problem persists. If we keep burning oil and gas that we dig out of the ground for this enegery generation, without replacing them with something renewable (most likley a combination of solar, wind, tidal, hydroelectricity and geothermal production, and maybe one day fusion), then we will run out. Just because we have revised the estimate of the point where we will start to burn more than we can extract from the ground a little way into the future does not mean it won't happen. Fossil fuels are not inexhaustible.

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: Re: Reading Comprehension.

          "Fossil fuels are not inexhaustible."

          Yes. That's why ultimately we cannot go by without fission or fusion.

        2. Bassey

          Re: Re: Reading Comprehension.

          "Synthetic produce these requires an energy input of at least the amount that can be gained from burning them...the input will be greater than the output... a potential answer to energy storage"

          You ARE aware that the input is sunlight, aren't you? This isn't like generating electricity by burning fuels and then storing it with pumped water. This is GROWING stuff - photosynthesis - thereby capturing energy from the sun (and CO2) and then burning it later.

      2. TimeMaster T

        Re: Reading Comprehension.

        Is that going to be the same decade that actually brings us 10 years closer to commercial Fusion?

        I'll believe in commercially viable synthetic hydrocarbons when they hit the market and cost less than "natural" petrol. Until then they go in the same stack with fusion, super capacitors, ultra fast charging batteries for electric cars and super efficiency solar cells. All of which have been 10 to 20 years off for the last 30+ years.

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      " modern industrial society is founded on a resource which is being depleted and which cannot be easily replaced"

      That's completely true actually. New techniques and sources mean that instead of production peaking now, maybe it will peak in 20, 50, 100 years. Instead of running out in 50 years, maybe we will run out in 200. The relevant principles are still the same - the advances in oil / gas extraction will just buy us a bit more time to prepare for a post-oil future. (Certainly there can be synthetic oils used as energy STORE, but they will need an external energy source to synthesise so cannot be considered to be an energy SOURCE themselves)

      So we still need to develop an energy supply that is cheap (both in terms of cash and environmental impact) and can scale up to Giga- and Tera- Watts, and can reliably work for many centuries. That means next-gen nuclear - pebble-bed, thorium breeder and so on. Wind is terrible for many reasons discussed here in el reg. Hydro and geothermal are limited geographically. Solar is looking more promising but will still be limited to hot desertified areas.

      All things considered, I'd much rather we work on developing these other sources now rather than burn all the remaining gas and oil and then start looking for alternatives. So pushing back peak oil is a good thing, however let's not bury our collective heads in the (tar) sands about long-term issues


      3.3 Trillion Proven Barrels of Oil and Counting

      The U.S. alone has at least 1.5 trillion barrels of "proven" oil shale reserves in the Colorado and Wyoming. And this does not include oil shale in the eastern U.S. like Pennsylvania. And these do not include the 1.8 trillion proven reserves of oil sands in Canada. Technology reinvents peak oil. Of course, all this oil will not be good for the environment but neither would a gigantic volcanic eruption like Mount Pinatubo back in 1991, which spewed more CO2 into the atmosphere than the entire industrial age had up until that point.

      1. Local Group

        Re: 3.3 Trillion Proven Barrels of Oil and Counting

        Remind us, please. How much oil does it take to make a barrel of oil from shale or sand?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 3.3 Trillion Proven Barrels of Oil and Counting

        Time to filter volcanoes, obviously.

  2. Gordon 10
    Thumb Up

    Not Dead - merely sleeping

    I for one am glad this is the nail in the coffin of PO as a global apolocolpse.

    However if we contrain the "vector" as Andrew puts in - we should still be aware that naturally occurring supplies of Oil and Gas will run out and that there is still an onus on Humanity to come up with synthetic replacements, and alternative energy sources. (Note not necessarily alternative in the Green sense)

    We still need a Step change in Power Generation, and Im willing to bet that many of the synthetic alternatives to Gas and Oil (for example as plastics rather than fuel) will require significantly greater energy inputs than extraction of the naturally occuring stuff.

    In short grounds for optimism but lets not get too cocky too soon. As a species we must always trust that our ingeniuity will win the day - and beware the doomsayers that spread enough FUD to make us doubt the effort.

    1. Ross 7

      Re: Not Dead - merely sleeping

      "...thanks to technological advances, Peak Oil is dead"

      As above, not dead, just not here at the moment. Dinosaurs aren't dying like they used to you know! ;)

      "the US well count has increased 500 per cent in three years"

      One of us can't read the graph you've used. It shows a change from 400 to 1000 wells over 3 years. The change from 200 -> 1000 isn't over a 3 year period.

      Even taking 200 -> 1000, that's 5x, which is 400% (2x = 100% increase, 3x = 200% etc). So, it actually increased 150% in 3 years based on that graph (or 400% in 2.5 years). Funny what you can make numbers show innit? :)

      I agree that we shouldn't be running around in urgent panic about availability of gas/oil quite yet, but that won't reduce oil prices. They're nicely tied up and will remain so.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        @Ross 7

        Speaking of fiddling with the numbers, anyone else notice how that first graph doesn't cross the axis at zero, therefore making a ~5% variation look like a ~200% one. Lies, Damn Lies, etc...

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Not Dead - merely sleeping

        Why has oil well count become a useful metric all of a sudden?

        Its because oil prices have gone up, making smaller reserves economical. Sorry but this was obvious, and irrelevant, for years.

        Strange how there isn't a graph showing oil production.

        Instead the problem is "redefined" away to include synthetic oil. Well, duh! the whole point was that fossil fuel is a finite resource, and energy needs to come from somewhere else. It was "Peak OIL" not "Peak ENERGY".

        And someone who points out oil production (from fossil sources) can't rise forever is just saying a trite point of physics. of course it can't. Why are they "Eco-tards"?

      3. Eddy Ito

        Re: Re: Not Dead - merely sleeping

        @Ross 7

        Two points:

        "Dinosaurs aren't dying like they used to you know! ;)"

        I'm really hoping the smiley at the end means you know oil doesn't now and never has come from dinosaurs.

        "It shows a change from 400 to 1000 wells over 3 years."

        Actually the graph doesn't show anything at all about the number of wells as it shows the number of rigs; you can tell from the part of the caption that reads "US oil rig count". It's a distinction with a difference. You see a well is a hole that has been drilled and it may be actively producing or not and may even be "dry". A rig is the drill that makes the hole. Rigs move from site to site making wells but once the well is done the rig moves to the site of the next proposed well. Since a well may be dry or inactive a well count wouldn't tell us much and just as bad the rig count doesn't say if that is the number of total rigs or active rigs. I assume it should be an active rig count as there isn't much point in counting rigs that are down.

  3. itzman

    This is all very well..(sixc!) but...

    ..for unconventional extraction to be viable, oil prices have to go high and stay high.

    And, in the limit when it takes the same energy to get a barrel of oil out, as is in it (times a putative 35% efficiency of using that energy) its mo longer a viable energy source. What that means is that ALREADY countries like India are moving to nuclear power as coal and oil becomes expensive..

    In short peak oil wont happen because of lack of oil in the ground, it will happen because its price must necessarily climb in real and in energy-of-extraction terms until other technologies - chiefly nuclear power - replace demand and consumption starts to fall.

    What I would expect is that there will be perhaps a further decade of increasing extraction and then a slow broad peak followed by decreasing extraction.

  4. b0llchit Silver badge

    Optimism from beyond the grave

    "improvements in effeciency"... Well then, give us a call when they break the laws of thermodynamics. I'm sure it is a criminal offence in some jurisdiction.

    1. PT

      Re: Optimism from beyond the grave

      Oh don't worry, the Republicans are pledged to repeal those anti-business laws when they get the US Government back.,281/

  5. Miffo

    Dead or delayed?

    "...this[PO] is premature." .... "...Peak Oil is dead:"

    Which is it? Through the rest of the article it's dead but near the start it's just "premature". Of course, it will happen one day. The fact that we might replace it with something that isn't too disruptive to our society a bit later than anticipated is neither her nor there.

    Still - interesting information but a bit hyped up.

  6. Paul Berry

    Sustainability is ingenuity

    Humanity will out because ingenuity will save the day? Maybe sustainability, far from being predicated on a false assumption (PO) is actually the very ingenuity the author is wishing for.

  7. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Down

    Besides the hypobole (this thinking is proving fatal) and the downright bizarre (resources as "vectors" - whatever that means), the thrust of this article is basically that we don't have to worry about resources running out because, hey, we can invent things.

    Do I really have to explain why that's a stupid position? Especially when the article does tacitly accept that human ingenuity has limits.

    History is history; stories about whale blubber being displaced are all very interesting, but this liberal arts approach to science policy is as dumb as they come. Yes, you can look at history, you can say "people acted like this back then", and you can invite us to assume that therefore history is merely repeating itself now, and is bound to repeat itself in this way, forever. But it doesn't prove anything, because the invariants in history are human behaviour, not the viability of various technologies. The only human behaviour outlined here is that people worry and start to make plans when prediction indicates problems ahead. Orlowski seems to be advocating a more, shall we say, ostrich-style approach to governance.

    And don't even get me started on why Citigroup may have an interest in affecting the commodity prices by releasing a report like this. Orlowski doesn't trust the University of East Anglia, but he trusts Citigroup? Sheesh.

    Still, not many people are talented enough to make confirmation bias into a successful career path.

    1. amanfromarse

      'And don't even get me started on why Citigroup may have an interest in affecting the commodity prices by releasing a report like this. Orlowski doesn't trust the University of East Anglia, but he trusts Citigroup? Sheesh.'

      Exactly. But seeing as he is suddenly so enamoured with the opinions of the analysts at our revered investment banking institutions, it's funny he didn't mention the almost simultaneously released report from Barclays Capital which comes to different conclusions.

      Confirmation bias is right.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Having seen presentations from Barclays Capital on the very same, their opinion is that the oil industry is not taking *enough* advantage of marketing / business opportunities for oil exploration and production, if anything it is the markets who would move Peak Oil closer to now, not the oil industry supply chain itself.

        The following are incontrovertible facts:

        1) Peak Oil is an outdated concept

        2) There is still more oil in the ground than we have ever extracted

        3) Newer and faster computers means we can model, image and pinpoint reserves (mature and frontier) ever more accurately

        4) Frontier areas in the world such as Greenland, Barents Sea, South China Sea, Indonesian / North Australia continental shelf, South Australia & Tasmania, even east Mediterranean and Japan are yielding up their wares, breaking records all the time on new oil and gas finds. Oil is everywhere.

        Whether or not it is 'PC' to develop in these areas is the issue, and it remains that we are continuing to find new technologies to:

        a) use what oil / gas we do extract ever more efficiently

        b) reduce the need for using oil / gas at all

        Both a) and b) are in full flight, improvements in technology are happening all the time, we all know we must stop using it, we are just not ready technologically.

        My estimate is that most of the oil that has ever existed on this planet will still be there be there time we stop using it completely.

        Peak Oil is a myth invented by greedy markets.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Excellent point.

          That thought struck me when I interviewed Pike a few years ago.

          Bogus scarcity drives up the short-term profits.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Eddie Edwards - Right on the spot

      The biggest danger for humanity is represented by the fact the the investment bankers and not the scientists are leading the world. There are some basic laws of physics that govern the whole universe and those bankers ignore them completely. No amount of creativity will allow humans to bypass these fundamental laws of the universe. Heck, even stars run out of fuel some day. Technically speaking, humanity might be able to adapt although on a much lower scale, however we will never have the time for that. The end of oil era will be extremely brutal for humankind.

      We seem to forget that all this advance of the human race is being based on oil. People did not move to oil because the whale blubber became rare, using some inventiveness they could have very well grown them as we do with cattle.

      1. David Dawson
        Thumb Down

        Re: @Eddie Edwards - Right on the spot

        No. Andrew is advocating a return to the view of science as the saviour. The great scientific ashes of the past were hugely optimistic about science. It was assumed that people could solve the great problems of the age. Almost invariably, they did.

        The reaction to peak oil, our bankers, or global warming has become 'let's tax it' or the tragic 'we're doomed'.

        Today's scientists and engineers are brilliant in an age of brilliance. Technology and science has never progressed as fast as it has, today.

        We need to throw our resources behind solving this problem, not wringing hands about howp the latest bogeyman has caused the problem (talking about bankers, seriously, old news guys)

    3. Arthur Dent

      @Eddie Edwards

      "History is History".

      Yes, indeed it is, and you have made it absolutely clear that you believe that only idiots would imagine that it might be possible to learn from it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

    Some of these 'greens' wont be happy until billions have starved to death and the few that remain are living in caves burning cow shit to keep warm.

    1. Tads

      Re: "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

      Greens want people to be able to live at the highest sustainable economic level possible, emphasis on the sustainable part. They want to PREVENT billions starving to death in cold caves because we were dumb animals who overpopulated and used our resources poorly while closing our eyes to the problems that might come. Smart animals keep an eye out for problems down the road and deal with them before they happen. They don't go scrabbling for maybes and ways to put off necessary change. I don't know about you but I'm in the evolved camp.

      1. Paul Westerman

        "Smart animals keep an eye out for problems down the road and deal with them before they happen."

        Which animals do that?

        1. Tads

          Re: "Smart animals"

          Apparently, not us :/

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

        Looks like I hit a nerve so hard you completely missed the word 'some'.

      3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Smart animals have no forecast committee to tell them where to go or when to limit their consumption, they're animals.

        So even smart animals can die of hunger if they're out of luck.

      4. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Re: "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

        "Greens want people to be able to live at the highest sustainable economic level possible, emphasis on the sustainable part."

        "Sustainable" means dead. Any growth or technological upset of the status quo disrupts "sustainability" and therefor must be prohibited, which means stagnation and slow economic, then physical death.

        Of course, in reality it won't happen like this - if the worst happened (the Greenies somehow get to rule us all) and as the situation deteriorated to a certain point, the Green overlords will be swept away by rebellion. The resulting disruption will throw the society back (temporarily) to burning wood and coal, nicely undoing any draconian "carbon savings" which may have happened during the "sustainability" era...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re: Re: "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

          We will be there with or without greens. Oh, and when we'll return to burning coal and the last available trees I don't see where we could ever evolve again. Do you really want us to believe that without oil humanity will make a come back ?

        2. Tads

          Re: Re: Re: "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

          Rubbish. This very article is touting the brilliance of humanity at improving what we can do with what we have. I love the way that slow economic growth just suddenly leads to death btw. You might like to elucidate on how that works (lol).

          We are no different from other animal populations and if we grow in ways that are predicated on unsustainable resource use when those resources become unavailable (and I mean economically unavailable btw) there will be social and economic upheaval of the sort that will ruin most things we cherish about our way of life. I don't know about you but I like my life and would like to offer the same standard of living to my kids.

          I for one welcome our new Greenie Overlords. They might just set us on track to still be around in another 1000 years without having to resort to subsistence level hiding in caves.

          1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

            Re: Re: Re: Re: "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

            With windmills?

            1. ravenviz Silver badge

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

              Wind turbines, Shirley?

          2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


            "We are no different from other animal populations and if we grow in ways that are predicated on unsustainable resource use when those resources become unavailable..."

            We are different because we can predict when the resource is likely to become scarce and try to do something about it. I am not saying that we should be complacent but the solution is not in trying to be "sustainable" but in developing an energy source which will not only replace oil in that capacity but will also support further growth.

            Green folly is that they want to curb the growth instead and fall back on inadequate energy sources.

            "I love the way that slow economic growth just suddenly leads to death btw."

            That works pretty much as anorexia on planetary scale.

      5. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

        "Greens want people to be able to live at the highest sustainable economic level possible, emphasis on the sustainable part. "

        I'd suggest both are pretty sweeping *generalizations*.

        I'd say (in *both* POVs) it's a case of "some do, some don't."

        Although speaking personally my closest approach to a "Green movement" was when I had some rather badly infected cheese.

    2. Michael Thibault

      Re: "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

      The idea being that we're all supposed to be contributing to that eventual state of affairs by continuing to live within, and maintaining, the status quo? Easy! (I'd take a second of those for later, but I think the one I have is more than enough.)

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: "They simply wanted Doomsday a little too badly."

      Nah, if that happened the greens would be whining about the exploitation of cows for their shit! :) Maybe huddled together in caves eating organic roots and leaves would be closer to the vision!!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Peak Oil

    It doesn't matter how much oil there is left, the question is how much does it cost to get it out of the ground? If it costs a barrel of oil in terms of energy to get a barrel of oil out of the ground, we're screwed. The newer techniques of obtaining crude are costing more and more to recover the oil.

    Remember that oil has many important uses other than fuel - plastics and lubricants would be high up the list of stuff we really don't want to go without...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Peak Oil

      No to mention clean drinking water for all our cities. How many days can last a big city without clean drinking water ? How about waterless toilets ?

    2. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Peak Oil

      The cost of a barrel of oil has little to do with known reserves, it is market forces and governments that control the price. In general you may see a gradual trend in increased cost of a barrel over time but the short term variances caused by market uncertainties (e.g. banks spieling about Peal Oil) will largely swamp the figures.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Peak Oil

        That would be the cost in terms of energy, not money.

  10. Zog The Undeniable

    This is Clarkson-level journalism

    The main problem with the ever-more optimistic figures for oil reserves is that the Arabs have a strong incentive to lie about how much they've got left, in order to prop up their currencies, maintain lavish spending and prevent bloody revolutions. I don't believe them at all.

    If you do the maths, the amount of oil energy in GWh consumed by the world every day is so vast that it would take an unthinkable number of nuclear power plants or (let's be optimistic) algae swamps to replace it. More than there is probably space for on the planet, in fact. Think how long the dino oil took to make. The Victorians may have obsessed about whale blubber supplies, but they weren't driving cars and they didn't have plastics.

    On the bright side, it probably makes no difference to the climate whether we burn the whole lot in the next 20 years or the next 200 years. It's probably worth buying a bicycle though, on balance.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: This is Clarkson-level journalism

      It doesn't matter how much oil the Arabs say they have, we won't be buying oil from them.

      We'll be using shale, then synthetics.

      I think some people are going to have a great difficulty adjusting to reality.

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: Re: Wind: When: The: Crowd: Says: Bo: This is Clarkson-level journalism

        You state opinion as fact. I'm not sure why you do that.

      2. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Re: This is Clarkson-level journalism

        'Some people' clearly includes you.

        Do you know *anything* about the horrible side effects of fracking? Or the immense energy cost?

        No. You don't. Because you're too ideologically blinkered to deal with reality honestly on this topic.

        Here's just one study:

        Here's another. (It's by lawyers, not scientist, so you don't need to worry about difficult words in this one.)

        There are others.

        Come back and write an informed feature when you've bothered to do some basic research.

        Maybe you'll be mistaken for a proper journalist then, and not someone with an ideological axe to grind and a (rather small and insignificant, all things considered) bully pulpit to grind it on.

        1. apr400

          Re: Re: Re: This is Clarkson-level journalism

          Quite. It was never resource shortage, but rather EROEI that was going to be the problem. The return on some of the newer techniques for extracting difficult hydrocarbons is frighteningly low. Add this to increasing world population, and rapidly increasing energy demands in the developing world, which mean a likely increase in demand of the order of 5 to 10 times current demand over the next 50 years and we have a problem. Biofuel will come nowhere near to filling this, and synthetics will require enormous investment in desert solar thermal, DT fusion, or fast breeder (and that only if we can figure out Uranium from sea water extraction). Nothing else comes close to closing the energy gap.

          1. fritsd

            EROEI exactly

            Exactly. EROEI is the key.

            Please look it up:

            Ask yourself why don't our cars run on (renewable!) whale blubber diesel? There are still whales about, you know, just ask the Japanese who "research" them.

            The answer is because petroleum-based fuel was cheaper during the 20th century and still is at the moment.

            Rudolf Diesel would have understood EROEI.

            The two examples you mention, hydraulic fracking and synthetic fuel, have drawbacks which is the reason why they are not used currently: both are bad for the environment and the EROEI is really quite a lot lower than other current fuel production methods (e.g. South Africa Sasol's Fischer-Tropsch synfuel: google it).

            You mentioned that there are hundreds of new wells in the USA to extract their huge amount of shale oil with hydraulic fracking. To me this doesn't sound like a brave new world of cheap fuel, but as an act of desperation to keep continuing with the profitable status quo for a little bit longer.

            You cannot in the 21st century decouple the inventivity needed to get resources from the *energy investment* needed to get those resources otherwise you will fail.

            Also, in economic terms the discussion often focuses on our "need" for fuel and energy. But unfortunately, physical rather than economical reality doesn't give a hoot about our "needs".

            To put it differently, thermodynamics trumps economics. We're finding that out now.

            I'll end my long and no doubt tedious rant by stating that I, a "tree-hugging hippy" as you'd probably call it, *love* human ingenuity and innovation and I sincerely believe that in 100 years we will still have wind and sunlight to our disposal to provide energy and food (lookup energy costs of Haber-Bosch process: ) for whatever size world population that can fit within those energy constraints post-Peak Oil.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Written by lawyers and therefore wrong.

          Lawyers do not and never will understand science, it's anathema to their entire way of thinking.

          Plus they use more difficult words than scientists anyway - it's the only way they can keep law exclusive and expensive.

        3. John Smith 19 Gold badge


          You might like to keep in mind that El Reg is the UK version of this website.

          US Fracking companies are *exempt* from the provisions of the US Clean Water Act courtesy of "W"s 2005 energy policy act*.

          Hence the ability in the *USA* to pump complex (and apparently lethally toxic and carcinogenic) chemical cocktails into the ground with *zero* comeback.

          In Europe environmental legislation is a little firmer on the matter.

          *Just one of shrub's little gifts to Big Oil and the American people. Getting it cancelled (or a new law to override it) would be quite a good idea.

      3. Tom 13


        I hope you are correct about the shale, and perhaps you Brits have a decent shot at that. Here on the other side of the pond, I'm not so sure the Green Weenies won't manage to put legal obstructions in place to prevent its usage. 'Gasland" may only be the beginning of the lies.

    2. Arthur Dent

      Re: This is Clarkson-level journalism

      "If you do the maths, the amount of oil energy in GWh consumed by the world every day is so vast that it would take an unthinkable number of nuclear power plants or (let's be optimistic) algae swamps to replace it. More than there is probably space for on the planet, in fact"

      Nonsense. tClearly you are incapable of doing the maths.

      |In Britain, 16 years ago more than 25% of our electric power was generated from fission reactors: there were 16 reactors in total: 1 PWR and 7 AGR delivering decent output, and 7 obsolescent (4 whose build started in the 1950s, one each from 1960, 1961 and 1962) low-capacity Magnox reactors which between them delivered about as much power as one and a half AGRs, and 1 newer (1964) medium capacity Magnox which delivered about 75% of a typical AGR output. Using modern technology we could have 25 times that capacity in a space small enough that it doesn't matter even in a densely populated area like Britain, and and with that we could power all out oil-burning devices as well as all existing coal-burning gear and still have some left over to export.

      Just across the channel we have France something around 80% of electric power generation is nuclear. I've spent quite a lot of time in France over the years, and I haven't noticed that the scenery has been taken over by nuclear power stations.

      In 29 years reactor output went from 200MWe (Calder Hall, first commercial output 1959) to 1250MWe (Torness, first commercial output 1988): ta factor of 6.25. If we hadn't stopped building plants we might expect a new reactor strating build about now to be in commercial operation generating about 8000MWe in 2020. That doesn't suggest vast areas of land taken over by generation at the sort of capacities that we would need.

      In fact it's absolutely clear that not only are the distribution and storage problems of wind generated power worse than those of nuclear (a result of intermittency of generation), but so is the space required for generating plant.

  11. faibistes
    Paris Hilton

    So, IIUC, all these trends, figures and predictions mean that fossil fuel is infinite, right?

    1. Charles 9

      Not so much infinite... abundant, provided you find abundant resources elsewhere to help you produce synthetic hydrocarbons. There's already research being conducted into making synthetic fuel (and it's serious research being done by such organizations as the US Department of Defense, who sees homegrown fuel as a step towards logistic security--A Good Thing for their type; more specifically, the Navy already uses reactors on most of their carriers, why not give them an extra job to do that can also help reduce the need to take on jet fuel every so often).

      All you really need is a better way of producing thermal or electrical energy. We already have a good bridge to it in modern nuclear reactors (if we can just get past the scare of nuclear excursions--Gen IV reactors take those potentials into consideration, and some designs are designed to prevent runaway reactions), and if we can just wrap our heads around finding a commercially-viable fusion reactor...

  12. Filippo Silver badge

    Apocalypse Politics will never stop. They are a constant of history. People always want to believe they're living in the end times; it helps them coping with their own mortality. When they'll let go of the hydrocarbon apocalypse, they'll just find a new one.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: Filippo

      Yes, but in the meantime we can have great fun winding up the Greenpeckers by saying "If PO means we're going to run out of oil anyway, why do we need to worry about AGW?" It's great fun, they literaly froth themselves in circles trying to claim we're doomed one way or the other.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You mentioned fracking.

    How long before someone gets all ranty, possibly mentioning the fiction that is gaslands?

  14. Some Beggar

    "assuming oil remains at $40-$50 a barrel"

    Am I missing something here? The current crude oil price is over $100 a barrel and most credible medium-term predictions suggest an increase between 1.5% and 3% pa for the next 25 years.

  15. Perpetual Cyclist

    This post could not be more wrong

    Global conventional oil production peaked permanently in 2006, SIX years ago.

    All growth of supply has since come from tar sands, coal to liquids, and biofuels.

    The price of oil is $124/barrel today an all time record when converted to Sterling or Euros.

    (Brent front month futures contract). When the UK North Sea supply peaked in 2001 it was below


    Tar sands and similar reserves have a future production potential of 5-10 millions barrels per day, in 10 -2 0 years time. The world burns 85 million barrels per day.

    Biofuel consumption has a global potential of 3-5 million barrels per day, but all it really does is turn natural gas into ethanol or prime rain forest into palm oil plantations. The US has just cancelled its bioethanol subsidy. Last year, Brazil IMPORTED both oil and ethanol from the US!

    In the last 4 years US. Europe and Japan have cut oil consumption by 3 million barrels per day. The rest of the wold has increased consumption by 4 million barrels per day.

    Last year another superspike in the price of oil was only avoided by releasing 60 million barrels from the US and EU strategic reserves. There is already talk of another release in the next few months.

    The global supply of oil has peaked, and economically inefficient users of oil (Europe and the US) are being systematically priced out of the global market. At the rate that China and India are expanding imports, and the global supply of available exports is shrinking, then there will be NO oil available for import to any other country by 2025.

    The US has not been self-sufficient in oil since 1964. We have been net importer since 2009.

    1. Identity

      Re: This post could not be more wrong

      I generally support your position, but one misstatement could make some (I'm looking at you A.O.) toss the whole thing. In point of fact, towards the end of last year/beginning of this one, the US (however briefly) became a net exporter of oil.

      1. Perpetual Cyclist

        Re: Re: This post could not be more wrong

        Hi Identity,

        A report on the internet does not make a fact. The US has been a net importer of oil EVERY DAY since 1964. Very briefly they exported more refined products (petrol and diesel) than they imported.

        That was because domestic consumption has collapsed in the recession, and land-locked supplies of Canadian Tar sand oil were so (relatively) cheap that it was cost effective to use spare refining capacity and export the products. Since then those refineries have been shut down as uneconomic.

        The lies the US media put out about oil are hard to credit sometimes.

    2. Chet Mannly

      Re: This post could not be more wrong

      "Global conventional oil production peaked permanently in 2006, SIX years ago.

      All growth of supply has since come from tar sands, coal to liquids, and biofuels."

      But its still oil being produced and burned in cars etc - yes?

      If oil production is growing then by definition we haven't hit peak oil, let alone in 2006.

      This article highlights that there is even more oil to be unlocked using the technology so successfully used for shale gas.

      So again, no peak.

      If synthetic oils start being produced as the paper suggests that means further growth in production.

      So again, no peak.

      1. Perpetual Cyclist

        Re: Re: This post could not be more wrong

        Bioethanol from maize or sugar cane looks and behaves nothing like oil, being a low energy density substitute for petrol, but is counted in global oil production, as is bio diesel.

        Natural Gas Liquids are short carbon chain hydrocarbons, a by-product of natural gas production. The carbon content is too low for transport fuels, but it is used as a petrochemical feedstock. They are counted in global oil production.

        Tar sands are so thick that they are dug out of the ground with a mechanical shovel. They need chemical treatment to break down the long carbon chains to a point where a conventional oil refinery can use them as a feedstock, but it is probably reasonable to call them 'unconventional oil'.

        There is as yet no peak in total fossil fuel production, but oil is the largest single source of primary energy on this planet, at about 30%. There is no way on earth it can be replaced by ramping up any other energy supply, fossil, nuclear or renewable.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This post could not be more wrong

      Price comparison of one day in time with another. Fantastic. Must be true. You do realise that commodities (especially oil) are increasingly speculated in and invested in as an asset class by funds don't you? What do you think that investment does to pricing? A small-ish fund I work for has $1bn invested in commodities, mainly oil, and that is just the tip of the iceberg (there's a nice momentum trade in oil). Don't even attempt to dispel this, as some do, by looking at the futures exchange's separation of contracts outstanding into hedgers (generally producers and consumers) and investors/speculators. Goldman Sachs is allowed to be counted on the hedgers side and is also a very large player in the commodities market as a fund counterparty. I don't imagine they're the only ones. Thus the figures aren't that useful.

      The price today is an all time high when converted to Sterling or Euro due to the lack of desire for those currencies vs the dollar. Better to compare in USD taking into account the relative strength of the dollar via it's trade weighted basket through time to account for variations by currency movement.

  16. Daniel Garcia 2

    after reading and re-reading the given paper....

    Basically those guys think because USA has a ESTIMATE increase of "ALTERNATIVE" oil production of about 300k barrel/day this year, and there is some shabby production increase on not so impressive overall wells production (North Dakota i'm looking at you), the PARABOLIC INCREASE on global oil demand can be fed and and prices therefore sustained.

    The paper, issued by a financial conglomerate, is designed to attack investor, not as scientific paper. It is full of "hard" data (real information) mix with "soft" data ( estimations) floating on a sea of wish-thinking speculation and hype. As a scientific paper lacks of structured, rigour and a clear separation between FACTS, ANALYSIS and CONCLUSIONS.

    They maybe right, but there is nothing in the paper to corroborate that.

  17. Tads

    Exactly, the price of oil will still have to rise a significant amount before extraction of shale oil is economically viable. Those reserve remain useable for the future which is a good thing but dismissing the economic pain your much derided "middle classes" will experience when we're down to tapping shale oil is irresponsible.

  18. TeeCee Gold badge

    Basic supply and demand.

    As the price of a commodity rises, alternatives that were previously uneconomic to produce become viable. Or in other words, if it's worth their while, somebody'll do it.

    Now who first pointed that out? Ah, that'll be Adam Smith in 1776. Clever bloke, debunking Peak Oil some 200 years before some arsehat thought of it....

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Basic supply and demand.

      Smith was writing almost a century before the first law of thermodynamics was properly understood and when trade was largely agricultural and based almost entirely on renewable supplies.

      If you think he addressed the concept of peak oil then you have clearly never read the Wealth of Nations.

      1. Chet Mannly

        Re: Re: Basic supply and demand.

        If you've understood (not just read) the Wealth of Nations you'd understand that the basic principle the OP pointed out explains why peak oil wont be the end of civilisation, or even necessarily a crisis when peak production is eventually reached, as other technologies will replace it.

        So no, the words 'peak oil' do not appear in the Wealth of Nations *slaps forehead*, but Smith still gave us the logical tools to understand it would never be the problem the Peak Oil mob said it would be.

        1. Some Beggar

          Re: Re: Re: Basic supply and demand.

          I'm sure you'd be happy to point out the part of the Wealth of Nations that is applicable to finite energy resources. Smith gets bandied around with seeming impunity in this sort of debate but nobody ever manages to actually quote him.

          No ... wait ... perhaps you could instead address some bizarre straw man about the "end of civilisation". That'll convince me.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Chet Mannly - Re: Re: Re: Basic supply and demand.

          Smith was not a scientist and it is easy to speak of alternatives when you are not a scientist. This time it's not entirely about money. If it costs 3 energy unit to produce one energy unit, physics are very clear here. Oil is so valuable because you spend very little energy compared to how much you extract. this is why ethanol didn't work and this is why extracting fuel from plankton, algae or whatever leafs you want is not working, irrespective of economical value. Remember, basic fundamental laws of science always beat economic laws.

    2. Christian Berger

      Re: Basic supply and demand.

      "Or in other words, if it's worth their while, somebody'll do it."

      You are confusing actual markets with the theoretical construct. This would be true in a free market, but in reality its more like this:

      Oil becomes expensive, company wants to boil it out of oily sands.

      Company gets permit and research money from government

      Company starts producing, finds that cost is far higher than conventional drilling

      Company works on getting its cost subsidised for example by using subsidised power

      *a few years later*

      The necessary shift to new infrastructures which would work with alternatives to oil has been postponed, "normal" oil is far to expensive, the government needs to go on and continue subsidising the company, otherwise everything will break.

      So what we should do now is to make sure we can use a multitude of power sources and that we can switch quickly.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Basic supply and demand.

      It may be that someone invents an alternative way to produce a scarce and costly resource, but it doesn't necessarily follow that it returns to former levels of abundance and cheapness. It may just mean that we can indefinitely maintain an expensive trickle of the resource.

      Andrew posits a straw man that you either believe in full tilt exploitation of oil or Amish austerity. The fact is, we need not only to invest in alternative methods of producing hydro-carbons, but in alternative energy sources, eg nuclear.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Basic supply and demand.

        We need to invest in all kinds of things. Cost is usually the determinant.

        1. Some Beggar

          Re: Re: Re: Basic supply and demand.

          "We need to invest in all kinds of things. Cost is usually the determinant."

          Care to elaborate on that? Because as it stands it is almost entirely devoid of substance.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Basic supply and demand.

            ".....Care to elaborate on that?...." Well, to put it simply, we have limited resources financially due to other commitments. For example, we could solve all our electricity generation problems for the next thirty years if we diverted a whole year of the UK budget to nothing but paying the Yanks or the Fwench to build us nuke power stations at a faster rate. Problem is, that diversion of cash would leave us with horrific shortfalls in other areas such as healthcare, policing or even road repairs. For voters in the UK, for example, giving up the NHS for one year is too much of a sacrifice, so we are left with limited financial resources.

        2. Michael Thibault

          Re: Re: Re: Basic supply and demand.

          And, ultimately, one of the costs is energy input*, without which no amount of creativity, ingenuity, or inventiveness will help. That would be the end-game, of course, but there's always a fervent prayer being repeated that the miracle of an 'out' will continue to roll in in a timely way, in perpetuity, so humanity can avoid reaching that particular pass.

          *Abstracting entirely from the complexities, and costs, of converting infrastructure to use what energy is available --including the energy required to do the conversion. There's won't always be a functionally infinite and available quantity of energy available, but I get the sense that that supply is assumed a priori in the prevailing theosophy.

  19. Armando 123

    In other words

    "the "sustainability" sector, which is almost completely dependent on state funding and which shares similar erroneous assumptions."

    So the sustainability movement is not sustainable without socialism-like patronage, which history has shown us isn't itself sustainable. (Greece, East Germany, Brazil in the 90s, Vietnam, France in the late 1840s, ...)

    And I apologize to all watermelons (green on the outside, red in the middle) for using empirical evidence to show you're wrong.Wait, no, I don't apologize.

  20. Perpetual Cyclist

    shale oil

    Shale oil is a light oil that is extracted from the same hole in the ground as shale gas. Recent widespread deployment of horizontal well drilling combined with multistage fracking (facturing of the source rock by pumping in liquids under high pressure) has lead to an increase of both oil and gas production in the US in recent years, US oil production has increased from 5.1Mbpd to 5.6Mbpd, but US production peaked permanently at over 10Mbpd in 1971. The US consumes about 15 mbpd of oil products, and imports about 8 -9 Mbpd at the moment (and falling rapidly). (The numbers don't add up because of 'refinery gain').

    Oil Shale is a oily shale resource rock found in huge quantities in parts of the US. Nobody has ever worked out a way of extracting oil economically from it, because it uses almost as much energy to extract as is contains. It is also hugely polluting. Oil shale will NEVER be produced.

  21. masterofobvious


    Plenty of oil to go around, it's just we need to use just as much to get it out of the ground now.

    1. Adam Nealis
      Thumb Up

      Re: EIEO

      In terms of EROI, you are saying EROI = 1 = EIOI ?

      We're not quite at 1:1 yet. It would become uneconomic to use oil as an energy source before we got to 1:1. Unconventional oil is reckoned to give you a 5:1. Conventional oil is a bit less than 20:1 these days.

      AO is a cornucopianist. His reasoning is often clear. But he doesn't really understand, or chooses to ignore, all the salient data. As a journalist he is not very objective.

  22. mark 63 Silver badge

    move on nothing to see hear

    human inventiveness will save us? some things you just cant invent ter way out of no matter how much money you chuck at it.

    "Oil production is far more contingent on upstream investment "?

    -no money wont save you.

    this is all anti peak propaganda

    Even if it isnt a load of "Big business shitting its pants" type of "carry on all is normal" speech

    Shale oil and fracking have a EROEI about 20x that of conventional oil which will make a huge impact and still only delay the inevitable

    Even then regardless of available oil , our present lifestyles cant carry on because its based on an ever expnading model - for it to work the economy , and more to the point the population must increase exponentially.

    When I was a kid there were 4billion on the planet - now theres 7 or 8 , so in 40 years - 16 billion.

    How long can that carry on for?

    I'll be intrested to read the rest of the comments on this because usually any peak oil story is much derided by reg readers , so will this story provoke much congrats and agreement?

    or will the readers find new reasons to diagree?

  23. Circadian

    Do The Math

    Wow - no one has mentioned this site in the article yet - Do the Math "Using physics and estimation to assess energy, growth, options—by Tom Murphy"

    Written by a physicist using "back of fag packet" calculations to test the reasonableness of various fuel sources. If you have the time, a very fascinating read.

    If you don't fancy reading up a few dozen articles by now, try one of the recent articles published giving a matrix comparing various fuel sources for abundancy, intermittency, difficulty etc, and is at

    1. Adam Nealis
      Thumb Up

      Re: Do The Math

      I would have mentioned it, but you got there first.

      There's also "Without Hot Air" by David McKay.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Do The Math

        Overtaken by events.

        In other news: the Earth isn't flat.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          What do you mean? What has been overtaken by events and which events?

          Also, why the "in other news..."

        2. Circadian

          @ Andrew

          Looks like there is a difference in world view here. I'll state my position.

          I believe that science is generally a step-wise attempt to refine how things work, with the occasional big breakthrough/upheaval. If there is a wonderful new breakthrough that can give us centuries more resource, then great! However, to actually bet the world's future energy resources/requirements on scientists developing some major breakthrough just when we need it seems a little irresponsible to me.

          This may be a little bit "out there" in terms of thought, but maybe - just maybe! - the world should start looking at finding a way to live within the means of *known* resources for a change, without depending purely on human inventiveness to get out of the mess we could very easily find ourselves in. If we find a wonderful new resource we can exploit, then obviously the standards of living and what we can achieve can also be increased. If, though, we do not look at living within our means, the potential crash is frightening.

          Yes, it would be nice to live in a world of pure optimism assuming that scientists and engineers will come through and continue providing breakthrough after breakthrough (because, let's face it, politicians and economists are a totally busted flush), eventually even defeating the presently known laws of physics. But then, I'm not that much of an optimist.

          In other news: the Earth isn't infinte.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Do The Math

      His assessment is behind the curve on several forms.

      Others are not mentioned at all. He's got in artificial photosynthesis and D-D fusion, neither of which *exist* in any form and leaves out satellite solar power which IIRC is due to be tested in California by 2014.

      1. Circadian

        @ John Smith 19

        The site's author is fairly approachable, and if satellite solar power is likely to be able to provide significant power at reasonable efficiency and cost with minimal risk I am certain he would be interested - just leave a comment and link to some solid figures at his site and he is likely to take a look into it. In fact, that is the reason that fusion appears in the list at all. So many people following his series of articles expressed hope that fusion would solve many of the power problems, that he took that into account in preparing the table in the (earlier) linked article. Regarding artificial photosynthesis, a quick google provided this (, which, while it is regarding release of hydrogen via artificial photosynthesis rather than generating hydrocarbs, shows that research is at a further along stage than simply not existing "in any form".

        I look forward to your future positive contribution to the discussions and debate at his site.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting Arguments

    The interesting thing about the Peak Oil arguments are that they miss some of the basic economics of oil use. Firstly, Orlowski makes some interesting arguments about human ingenuity. Where that ingenuity kicks in is the interesting part though. In the long run, we won't be making synthetic oil for energy uses (with the possible exception of portable energy on aircraft for example). Synthetic oil will actually be all about materials made from oil, the petrochemicals industry. As oil supply reduces, prices increase. As prices go up, it become economically viable to explore other solutions to energy supply and generation of oil for petrochemicals as well. At some point bio-fuel is cheaper that oil for petrochemicals, and at some point solar arrays in the sahara are cheaper than burning fossil fuels (nuclear is already cheaper, but let's ignore that for the time being).

    Now, another thing happens as well. As we start extracting oil from more and more difficult locations, the energy cost of extraction goes up. As soon as the energy cost tips over the energy produced by oil, we stop burning fossil fuels for the majority of things. Then what little oil is left ramps down production and just starts getting used for petrochemicals.

    I remember being forced to rote learn in school in the 80s that oil would run out in 20 years. I'm sure there is a lesson there!

    1. Adam Nealis

      Re: Interesting Arguments

      The simplistic economics argument as put forward os largely unphysical.

      It assumes infinite supply (as if the cost can magically make oil appear).

      It assumes infinite substitutability (e.g. synthetic oil for "real" oil).

      It ignores the energy cost of mining a unit of energy.

      Some economists are actually intelligent, yet they don't realise their ideas don't always apply properly. So one can forgive AO for not thinking too hard about it either - especially as to do so would hurt his cornucopian proclivities.

      Since the stuff is finite, it will run out.

      Peak Oil will be a supply problem first, irrespective the amount stil in the ground, known or unknown.

      1. Circadian


        Re: "Some economists are actually intelligent, yet they don't realise their ideas don't always apply properly."

        I've recently read a book by Steve Keen ("Debunking Economics"). It does a very thorough hatchet-job on present mainstream economic theory. He goes back to first principles within the neoclassical economists' theories and clearly shows that the underlying principles are either flawed or outright wrong. As a side-note, he is actually one of the few economists to go into print warning of the "Great Recession" prior to it happening, and with reasons for it.

        Briefly, one of the main flaws is that neo-classical economics is strongly wedded to the idea that the market is in equilibrium, or will quickly tend to equilibrium. Also is a very marked lack of time involved in the theories, usually being handwaved away by stating that either the view taken is a snapshot, so time doesn't really matter, or that it is the long view where things have tended to find their natural equilibrium - so time doesn't matter.

        Cutting large parts out - basically economists are still trying to (pretty much) use algebra, whereas the real equations lie in the differential equation domains and chaos theory. So if you want to challenge any neoclassical economist, ask them where in their theories can they show that booms and busts can occur without handwaving "external events". Booms and busts occur with such frequency and periodicity that those "external events" sure do seem to come fairly often...

  25. Paul Smith


    The power of positive thinking never fails to amaze. Current US production is at about the same level as it was in the 1940's. It is not trending upwards, it is just not trending downwards as quickly as it was.

    The number of productive wells has increased significantly in the last three to five years, but that was after thirty years of decline.

    1. Tads

      Re: Definitions

      I noticed that also, the graph in the article shown prettily trending upwards is the NUMBER of oil wells, not the amount they pump. It's basically meaningless except as a pictorial effort at supporting the articles premise . It says nothing about the actual levels of extraction/production.

  26. Friendly Neighborhood Yank

    Peak oil is the wrong thing to watch for

    People always seem to think peak oil is warning about us "running out". I've always thought a better way to express what peak oil is really warning about is: "the end of Easy oil". We will never totally run out of oil, but the days of burning it off because it's bubbling out of the ground are long gone. As we have to go to greater lengths just to get what's left (or free what's trapped), the cost keeps increasing. We are rapidly approaching a time when many people simply can't afford to burn oil casually.

    That economic crunch when people have to adjust their lives because of the sky high cost of oil is what "peak oil" has always been warning about. And from where I'm sitting, that prediction has proven remarkably accurate.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I always despair when technical reviewers like the register take positions that are so obviously non-technical and totally out of touch with reality and the raw numbers.

    There are have been dozens of reports now from government and military sources that have verified Peak OIl. The most recent one is out of Australia which was just leaked in the past few weeks by the Telegraph.

    Basically, the oil sands and deep water have allowed the worlds oil to plateau rather than decline. But that will soon end.

    You can read the report here:

    THe money quotes from the report, which is 400 pages and goes into excruciating detail on all of the worlds oil production potential is this:

    (Page 350/351)

    "According to the aggregation of predictions of annual potential oil production, world production of conventional oil is currently just past its highest point. A predicted shallow decline in the short run should give way to a steeper decline after 2016. But of course, deep water and non-conventional oil production are growing strongly, turning a slight decline into a plateau (Figure 13.11 and Table 13.3).

    Thus the prognosis is for a slightly upward sloping plateau in potential production from 2005 to 2016, before crude oil production declines begin in earnest. Figure 13.12 and Table 13.3 show that it is the projected expansion of deep water and non- conventional heavy oil production that turns what is predicted to be a 2006 peak in conventional oil into a more drawn out plateau over 10 years for total crude."

    1. Dapprman

      Shame that possibly the largest oil layer ever found has recently reared it's head in the Kurdistan area of Iraq. It's a British registered company at the forefront there as well (GKP) though there are plenty of rumours of the big US companies looking to buy them out.

  28. John A Blackley

    There's enough

    Seemingly there's enough oil and gas to last through my lifetime so I'll put away the goat-hair undershirt and the recycled-tire sandals.

    As for the next generations? **** 'em. Let them fix their own problems.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's enough

      I've got no kids either so I can see the merit in this approach.

      However I just hope the next generation doesn't try to fix its own problem by bumping off the current one.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's enough

      You mean let them fix our problems, in the sense of the ones we created for them.

    3. Some Beggar

      Re: There's enough

      Some of us weren't blessed with your admirable self-interest. We suffer from an unfortunate human weakness boffins call "empathy" and foolishly give some consideration to the potential suffering of our children and grandchildren.

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: There's enough

      "Seemingly there's enough oil and gas to last through my lifetime so I'll put away the goat-hair undershirt and the recycled-tire sandals.

      As for the next generations? **** 'em. Let them fix their own problems."

      Now that's a proper grumpy old man POV

      Of course if the timing is a little bit off your retirement years are unlikely to be golden and you won't like it when you run through the last pack of adult incontinence nappies.

  29. Identity

    Three cheers for ideology and optimism

    ...even though it has precious little to do with facts. Most of those disputatious items have been cited above. The fact remains, though, that a finite resource can be used up. Even when we find a replacement, we've merely pushed back the troubles.

    ...and resources are a vector? OK, you can *represent* them with one. [If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a cat have? Four — calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one.]

    Personally, I like Amory Lovins' take. The cheapest fuel is the fuel we don't have to use, which he dubs 'negabarrels.' Use of carbon composite trucks has already saved Wal-Mart a ton on fuel. There are plenty of ways we can reform what we do and how we do it that sidesteps the issue. How about telecommuting instead of driving to work?

    You can check our Lovins' work at

  30. Audrey S. Thackeray

    I don't understand

    I've tried to summarise the article and it seems to come out as "Peak Oil is a myth because when oil production peaks and is no longer sufficient we will have come up with an alternative and so all the people that said that we should look for an alternative to oil are idiots."

  31. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Well, given the rate at which the Chinese are buying new cars . . .

    We'll all soon be paying oil at prices where just about any production method will be economically viable.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Well, given the rate at which the Chinese are buying new cars . . .

      I keep hearing $40-$50/barrel is the magic price investors want to hear for all the new synthetics startups.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Re: Well, given the rate at which the Chinese are buying new cars . . .

        "I keep hearing $40-$50/barrel is the magic price investors want to hear for all the new synthetics startups."

        Now is that production *cost* or sale *price*?

        1. Eddy Ito

          Re: Re: Re: Well, given the rate at which the Chinese are buying new cars . . .

          Currently the marginal cost to produce one more barrel of oil is about $50 and if not for speculators, instability in certain countries and the various sabre rattling from other countries is about where the market would price a barrel. It is the magic number for synthetics because it makes synthetics viable in the long term and would do a lot to stabilize the price.

          1. Eddy Ito


            Oh yeah the $50 / bbl price would also be unassailable by conventional oil producers who would likely try to squash the synthetic competition and maintain their pricing power. They might be willing to take a loss for a while but the smaller OPEC members probably wouldn't be able to hold out for too long.

      2. foo_bar_baz

        Re: Re: Well, given the rate at which the Chinese are buying new cars . . .

        Andrew, you just keep repeating "synthetics". I'd like to read about the viability of growing our fuel. Let's forget about the economics for a moment, just focus on the projected availability of land and the demand for food and fuel.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Re: Well, given the rate at which the Chinese are buying new cars . . .

          Some startups are using algae+sugar, Venter is using algae+CO2.

          You can do a lot to tweak the algae to improve things.

          But all are using industrial facilities rather than converting farmland.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unbelievably naive article... worst I've seen here

    This article marks a new low for the Register.

    The debate over Peak Oil has always been about, not whether or not it matters, but whether it has already happened or not. When it does, things will start going down hill rapidly unless we suddenly greatly increase our energy production using other methods. Synthetics either rely on using land (which is going to be needed for feeding people) or energy.

    So we need to either get Nuclear Fusion viable, or somehow overcome the global inertia surrounding Fission reactors and start building them everywhere.

    For the latter of course we'll then need to start considering when Peak Uranium will occur.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: Unbelievably naive article... worst I've seen here

      "This article marks a new low for the Register."

      Hi! You must be new to this whole "news" thing...

      This is The Register. It's staffed by journalists. It may have escaped your attention, but journalists are not scientists. Few are even experts. This is a news website, not a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The Register's staff's job is to report on what is happening, but they are not required to understand it all in the minutest of detail.

      Andrew Orlowski's article is a report on a report released by Citibank. He interprets it as best he can, but given that this is a field that deals heavily with statistics, physics, organic chemistry, and more, it is idiotic to expect someone who works in an entirely different field to nail it.

      As with all the other writers working for The Register, Andrew's responsibility is to attempt to interpret the information as best he can in terms readers can understand.

      Journalists are writers. They are also people. All people are inherently biased. There is no point screaming "BIAS!" at a journalist. It's like shouting "MAMMAL!" at a rabbit.

      (As for the "IT angle": IT usually requires electricity. That electricity has to come from somewhere, and where it comes from will have a huge influence on how much it costs.)

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Petrol is still cheap

    Only about 65p a litre from the pump, including 20% VAT, delivery, retailer costs. Duty (and a bit of VAT on the duty) make up the rest.

  34. Guz

    Dry wells refilling on their own?

    They didn't even mention the weird phenomenon that has the oil industry and geologist baffled, of old "dry wells" refilling on their own.

    I first heard about it 12 years ago, while hanging out with some geologists that work for the oil industry. They quietly mentioned that there are old US wells that were believed to have been pumped dry, but when they were required inspect them by EPA (or some other govt agency), they found the wells to be full, and under pressure.

    The industry and the govt kept it quiet for a long time. But recently there have some published reports about the phenomenon. Some of the ideas as to why are; Oil has seeped in from deeper sources. Oil is not from "dinosaurs" but a natural byproduct of plate tectonics. Oil is a waste product of some undiscovered micro organism that lives deep in planets crust. (Yea, some ideas are far fetched in my opinion).

    But the point is, we haven't even gotten close to exhausting the planets oil supply.

    As to why they haven't used the oil in the old wells? Conspiracy theory to inflate oil prices for profit? Environmental regulations? (I don't know).

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Dry wells refilling on their own?

      I'm pretty sure no industry insiders or geologists are baffled by this given that it is 90% urban myth.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dry wells refilling on their own?

      If you're going to come out with stuff like that: Cite sources.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dry wells refilling on their own?

      Maybe time to brush off this one again ...

  35. Jimbob...

    And if we do manage to keep burning oil?

    So if we do somehow manage to economically extract oil from these previously unviable reserves, then we can what? Alter the climate even more than the already frankly scary prognoses based on using the known, conventional, fossil fuel reserves? Nothing to worry about there then...

    (Disclaimer: unless of course you believe that anthropogenic climate change is a myth cooked up by the green commies in the UN etc etc)

  36. DButch

    Citigroup is being misleading

    Actually the whole thing with shale and other sources of oil fits quite neatly with Peak Oil. The prediction is that as conventional sources of oil go through their entirely predictable life cycle, the incremental cost of production goes up over time. Conventional oil field preduction can be temporarily boosted or extended with new technology - and the oil produced costs more per barrel than the original oil when the field was producing at peak.

    Share and tar sand oil (and deep water drilling) wouldn't even be considered if the current cost of oil wasn't high. Eventually, any field will reach a point where the cost of extraction (direct and indirect) exceeds the value of the oil/gas extracted - and that field will be shuttered until the value of an incremental barrel rises due to scarcity to the point where extraction becomes economically justified again.

  37. Graham Bartlett

    "Apocalypse Politics"?

    Excuse me? Back in the 80s when everyone was predicting that oil would run out in 20 years, fracking wasn't an option. It's been figured out since then, and that's great - loads more cheap energy for us to use. But does that mean we should rely entirely on blind faith that something will be invented to save us?

    Back in the 80s, folks also discovered a sodding great hole in the ozone layer, caused mainly by CFCs. Now we could have sat around and said "no worries, someone will invent something to squirt up there and sort it out"; or we could have done what actually happened, which was saying "unless we stop using CFCs, we're screwed". A lot of companies using CFCs heavily screamed blue murder about that, but they got told to belt up. Having been given no option, they went and invented their way to stuff to use instead of CFCs.

    Back in the energy world, we can keep assuming that some McGuffin is going to magically solve the problem, or we can start preparing for the day when it doesn't happen. For example, California is already doing that by mandating an average fleet fuel consumption for a manufacturer's cars, forcing them to invent their way towards more energy-efficient transport. It's a win-win situation - if some magic McGuffin gets us more cheap energy then we can use it better, and if it doesn't then we're better prepared for tightening our belts.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Apocalypse Politics"?

      "Back in the 80s, folks also discovered a sodding great hole in the ozone layer, caused mainly by CFCs. Now we could have sat around and said "no worries, someone will invent something to squirt up there and sort it out"; or we could have done what actually happened, which was saying "unless we stop using CFCs, we're screwed". A lot of companies using CFCs heavily screamed blue murder about that, but they got told to belt up. Having been given no option, they went and invented their way to stuff to use instead of CFCs."

      CFC's and the ozone hole are also a nice existence proof that humans *can* change the planetary environment on a human *timescale* given we have an exact date for the start of CFC mfg.

      Something to keep in mind when the humans-are-too-puny-a-species-to-make-any-dent-in-the-planet line gets touted about.

  38. Steven Jones

    What really matters.

    "we won't be running out any time soon" is a euphemism for "in my lifetime"...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What really matters.

      You forgot to add "I really hope so"

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well the unconventional gas figures don't stand much scrutiny so I don't think we should put too much faith in another bunch dealing with unconventional oil reserves.

    The most common figure cited for American gas reserves is 2,170 trillion cubic feet (tcf) from the Potential Gas Committee. Which is often said to be a 95-year supply if 2010 consumption figures are maintained.

    Of that, 273 tcf are "proved reserves," stuff we are fairly sure is there and can be produced economically. 536.6 tcf are "probable" from existing fields, it probably exists and might be economically recoverable. 687.7 tcf is "possible" from new fields - gas that might be in new fields if and when we find them and might be recoverable. Beyond that are 518.3 tcf of "speculative," gas - the meaning is in the title and 176 tcf for coalfield gas of which 90% has not been proven.

    In short the US has 11 years of proven gas, 21 of proven and possible reserves and everything after that is an unknown. And that's not even taking into account the percentage of any gas that can be recovered from a field.

    As for the rig counts - does it show there is a huge untapped supply of gas out there? No, it shows that shale needs a lot more rigs than conventional reserves and that shale gas wells are tapped out much more quickly than traditional gas wells.

    Oh and some of the operators might have been overstating production and reserves:

    1. tahoevalleylines

      Gold; we won't be running out anytime soon

      Strategic Planners believe Peak Oil signals resource wars in our time.

      Games played by investment houses and their clientele will not overcome annual aggregate conventional oilfield depletion.

      Mike Richards' rationale applies to conventional oil, on which the pricing of motor fuel ultimately rests. Railways are a significant part of the solution set. Dance around this as we may, the surest way to pass through the Oil Interregnum with the least disruption shall be by replication of former transport and distribution methodologies: leaning on railway expansion and extension as much as possible in the time at hand.

  40. AnonymousNow

    If a Citibank analyst says it must be true, it must be true. After all, we know from the dot com bust that the analysts of the "too big too fail" investment banks only provide truthful information not whatsoever crafted to defraud the idiot masses. Citibank only wants to help you!!

    I will note that there are recent credible articles illustrating that shale reserves are not whatsoever panning out like Citibank suggests they are.

  41. RyokuMas


    ... of whether or not Peak Oil is "dead", I bet we won't be seeing fuel/energy prices fall at all.

    I'll get me coat. All three of me coats in fact - I need them because I can't afford to run my heating...

  42. Charles Manning

    Yet Another Hockey Stick

    Another hockey stick shaped graph! The conspiracy theorist in me says that someone's reusing their FUD!

    The proponents of both Global Warming and Peak Oil keep arguing that naysayers are in the pay of Big Oil. That makes no sense.

    The idea of Peak Oil allows the punters to accept higher oil prices. Same with Global Warming. If anything, Big Oil would be paying to keep these ideas front and centre in the public stage.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not how much but where it lays that counts

    The biggest issue is not how much there is but where it lies and who has control of it. Right now the biggest producers are those filthy rich bastards in the land of sand et al. The cartels controlling it put the price on it and control the supply and demand chain to get the best buck per barrel. What we need is a game changing plan to move that control away from vested interests back to the people who need it most. Much of the worlds wealth revolves around it. The small guy has to fight tooth and nail to get their hands on it at vastly inflated costs.

    Of course there is also solar energy farms whcih could potentially generate the worlds energy needs. But guess who has most of the land where those solar farms would be most effective? Yup! The very same people who control most of the worls oil supplies.

    Wind farms are not never going to cut it. Nor wave power. If countries can find local sources like shale then it would help somewhat towards removing this control. But it's only going to be a temporary solution for many.

    The UK's gas and oil supplies rely so much on these vested interests we are often held to ransom by it by those abroad (and a lot of the energy companies in the UK are controlled by those same external interests).

  44. Dan Hall

    Apocalypse Politics...

    Is still alive and well. Just listen to ten minutes of the AGL lobby's Chicken Little predictions and you'll be disabused of the idea that it's dead. All the Himalayan glaciers will melt in ten years, the ocean level will rise three feet before next Wednesday, and the unarmored three-spined stickleback is about to become extinct! The only thing that can save us is giving AGL scientists more money! Or the "carbon offset" of having 6 billion people living in unlit, unheated grass huts so that Al Gore can fly his private jet to climate summits in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

    I'm pretty sure that apocalypse politics will be with us just as long as plain old politics.

    1. foo_bar_baz

      @Dan Hall

      So, on the one hand you have scientists who just want more money. On the other hand, you have Big Industry and Big Banking, who are totally objective on the matter.


      Those money-grabbing scientists, always flouting their wealth with their flashy cars, hookers and blow. Glad I've got industry lobbyists and their "reports" looking out for my best interest.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    How The Future Car Looks Like - Das Ersatz-Auto

    Of course there won't be a sufficient supply of wood, so humanity will use smelly coal instead. That will probably last for another 500 years.

    After that, nuclear-powered Haber-Bosch gasification (with the Carbon pulled from the air) will take over.

    It would a crime to humanity to use trains&buses and let the purchase be shipped with a truck to the homes - freedom shirley means riding your own personal gaz-guzzler every single day.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hello Big Oil, are you listening?


    I'd like to get my hands on, er, advocate for all of the big bad oil companies out there that are doling out mula. I can say all sorts of really nice things that even happen to be true.

    Who can tell me where I can go or contact to be their shrill?

    Lineup begins behind , thank you very much.....

    Zurich bank account # 78-333-1824

    {point is, if big oil was stuffing peoples mouths with bills and spending anywhere near what their detractors claim, they would be broke in no time... Ah, the ad hominem attack, last refuge of the incompetent.)

    Anonymous since I don't want to fight all the Greenies at once or at all for that matter.

  47. Nexox Enigma

    Not Quite...

    Your last graph there shows the rig count increasing from 200 to 1000, yes that's 500% (though your article claimed that well count increased 500%, which is entirely impossible,) but it's not all that impressive, because your graph only goes back to Jan 2009. If it went back a bit further, it would show that we were at the same number of active rigs in mid-2008. All we're seeing is that the rigs shut down after things hit the fan in Q2 2008 are being fired back up, slowly. This is actually a pretty typical pattern in oilfield, which tends toward cyclic expansion and contraction.

    Here's a nice historical graph, which combines oil and gas rigs:

    Note that rigs have increased in efficiency a lot since the 70s, so the red line on that chart isn't a great indicator of wells drilled per unit time.

    The real news to go along with new technology is the huge quantity of horizontal drilling rigs - right now there are twice as many horizontal as vertical in North America.

  48. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Where is Tony Stark when you need him?

    I know, I know.


  49. scatter

    Just to put that amazing 500% well count increase in context...

    Let's take a look at US oil production trends since 1860:


    1. mark 63 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Just to put that amazing 500% well count increase in context...

      very succinct Scatter.

      nail . head

      whole article debunked in 2 sentences+url

      plus comedy! bonus!

  50. ExtraO

    Whether or not it was P.T. Barnum...

    Re: "RIP: Peak Oil - we won't be running out any time soon"

    There's a sucker born every minute Andrew. Pause a second before you swallow hook, line, & sinker all of the swill from those disinterested benevolent geniuses over at Citigroup - need we remind you they supposedly failed to foresee the financial crisis they themselves helped to provoke at the same time they were shorting the markets? One wonders at what point they have divested themselves from any financial dealings in the energy business so that we may now be confident that their comments are unbiased, factual & solely in the public's interest. Give me a break!

  51. Local Group

    The Governments Do Not Want Their Citizens To Panic.

    Remember all those WMDs the government told us that Saddam had?

    Well, the same people are now telling you and me and Citigroup the statistics and good news about oil production and consumption.

    Today the price of a barrel of oil is $106. How does it get to $40 - 50 a barrel in 10 years?

    The Tooth Fairy takes a second job.

  52. Chad H.

    I always seem to find the "don't panic about peak oil" arguments circular...

    It always seems to boil down to we don't need to worry about alternatives to oil because by the time we hit peak oil there will be alternatives....

    I guess these just blink into existence when required, and require no upstream planning or investment?

    1. Adam Nealis

      Re: I always seem to find the "don't panic about peak oil" arguments circular...

      Any serious discussion of "Peak Oil" should talk about depletion rates, and how long the stuff is likely to last at such rates. Peak Oil is not even defined in the Citigroup paper.

      Most cornucopians will, when pressed, admit oil is a finite resource. Then cognitive dissonance kicks in and they will wave their hands and say "but we don't have to worry for N decades" and revert to behaving as if oil was infinite.

      Conventional economists may refuse to answer yes or no, but insist that somehow price will force oil to be created.

      Go to here

      Search for "#5. Economists are trained to believe" and read that section.

      Economists as a class have very unphysical models of the world. In some areas these models are useful approximations. In others, not. If economics was a science, there would be be a lot of soul-searching going on in the profession as they struggled to understand why the major market crashes of this century occurred, and why they missed them, and why they don't know what to do about their aftermath. So in my eyes they are a profession with no more integrity or moral standing than estate agents, politicians or investment bankers.

      The point is, the authors of the report cited by AO was produced by Economists working for an Investment Bank.

      "Resurging North American Oil Production and the Death of the Peak Oil Hypothesis", I'm not sure if the Citigroup paper takes into account the recent significant downward revisions by the US GS of the amount of shale gas/ unconventional oil estimated to be under the ground in the mainland USA.

      In these articles, we hear how a separate group of analysts at a bank (Barclays Capital) reach the opposite conclusion:

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Energy equity

  54. Hawkmoth

    Oh for pete's sake people, put down the hyperbole; you're all right

    So peak oil has been rescheduled to a slightly later time. So what? Unless you come equipped with a tinfoil hat and a penchant for abiotic oil theories (AND don't believe in anthropogenic global warming) peak oil's going to happen some time. I don't think it's newsworthy that Citibank has decided the oil industry can hang on a little longer. Jeez, I can't imagine why Citibank would want to tamp down instability in the bluechip equity market unless they had a lot of money invested in big, oil-driven companies... ...duh

    Even if we use those magically refilling oil wells, toxic frack gas, sinfully inefficient renewables, and nuke plants on every street corner that hasn't already be rendered uninhabitable by a nuclear accident, we'd still need plenty of luck to avoid the collapse of civilization once all those Chinese start to consume like Americans. Hey what do you know...everyone's right. Now go home and do something useful.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personally I think we will never run out of sources of energy because the benefits electricity brings to society are too great. I'm not a fan of large-scale renewable energy, though I think if people want solar panels & wind turbines on their property then they should go ahead. There are so many different ways of generating power & I believe research should continue into as many different areas as possible. One problem is that there is many good ways to generate power (e.g. thorium) but not so many ways to store that power.

  56. FluffyMcDeath

    You are moving the goal posts

    Peak oil describes the extraction curve of conventional oil. You cannot then say that since we are extracting unconventional oil, conventional oil will not peak.

    The cheap conventional oil is becoming a thing of the past. We are moving off of that fuel onto more expensive alternatives and the cheap oil will never come again. Peak oil happens. Then one day will come peak "unconventional oil". Will people claim that peak unconventional oil isn't happening if we happen to be lucky enough to have developed fusion by then?

  57. FluffyMcDeath

    There is still a limit.

    There will always be oil but it will be harder and harder to get as the easy oil is used up.

    When the energy required to get a barrel of oil out of the ground is equal to the energy you get from a barrel of oil - it will hardly matter how much someone is willing to pay for a barrel of oil.

  58. Patrick 8

    If this is true

    Then I want my petrol docket to be 1/2 or more reduced than the great price rise growth it has experienced over the past 10 years due to peak oil as the excuse!

  59. Local Group

    "The beginning of the end of Apocalypse politics."

    How about just the beginning of the end. Period.

    Is there more oil available today?  Probably yes.

    Because of the addition of unconventional oils?  Probably not.

    The pressure that has been taken off of our demand for oil is primarily due to the enormous contraction of consumption that began in the last quarter of 2008. It's still with us. It did not pick up in June, 2009, the supposed date of the end of the recession.

    The tin foil hat theory is whether our government and it's military were so concerned about Hubbert's prediction for Global Peak Oil (1995 - 2000), that they conceived a plan for a world wide recession which would reduce the global consumption of oil?

    Does the most powerful military in the world and the largest consumer of oil on the planet, make plans for its future on a maybe-it'll-be-there, maybe-it-won't supply of oil. Of course not.  Most of our oil comes to the homeland in tankers which are sitting ducks in any conflicts to come. And the military are not concerned with Citigroup's projections. They have there own guys with pretty good data.

    How Greenspan engineered the global recession is another tin foil hat theory for a different forum. :-)

  60. Eddy Ito

    Citi's numbers

    Doing a quick net search on rig numbers turned up this paper from NOV which would indicate that Citi is grossly under counting the number of drill rigs.

    It makes sense to me that the Bakken play in North Dakota would have about 200 rigs as in figure 24 of the Citi report and ~6000 wells in ND from figure 26. What I don't get is the count in figure 22 that seems to show somewhere around 2000 total rigs, roughly half are oil rigs and figure 23 would indicate that nearly 60% of the oil rigs are divided in only 3 places. It also comes up about 1000 rigs short of the NOV total which seems to have been fairly constant over the past few years at around 3000 rigs.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whats this then? cover up of a nothing event?

    and the the report the australian government (labor ranga and here greens) removed all existance of:

  62. Albert

    assuming oil remains at $40-$50 a barrel

    Strange. I thought oil was at about $120 a barrel, so 2 to 3 times higher than the article lists.

    Again, from limited knowledge, so open to correction

    $120 a barrel is based on mainly oil taken from already established wells in easy to reach reserves. Once we go into shale and sand the cost to retrieve the oil from the ground goes up. The contaminants in the oil will be higher and so the cost of processing and actually extracting the oil will be higher. Basically, pump all the stuff out of the earth. Process it to get to he oil and then pump the contaminants back into the ground.

    The cost of extracting oil is going up as it is being found in harder to reach places.

    While the cost of alternative (renewal) energy sources is going down with advancements in technology. I know where I would be betting the future and it wouldn't be on oil.

  63. Andy 97

    Reason has left the building

    If there is peer reviewed figures available to back-up either claims, I'd be happy to digest them.

    In a world of media madness and funding-starved scientists...

    As Danny Baker says: "If you're not scared, we're not doing our jobs".

  64. jbuk1

    All this talk reminds me about one of Asimov's short stories about entropy.

  65. Mephistro

    Andrew, seriously...

    Trusting a report on energy production and future availability made by lawyers employed by a bank is like sending your children to a kindergarten sponsored by NAMBLA .

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Andrew, seriously...

      Try reading the PDF, it is implicitly very critical of the industry's practices and capital expenditure strategy.

      Obviously, it's easier not to read anything that might disturb one's pre-conceived world view.

      1. Mephistro

        Re: Re: Andrew, seriously...

        "Try reading the PDF, it is implicitly very critical of the industry's practices and capital expenditure strategy"

        That could have something to do with the fact that the report is sponsored by a bank, not by the Oil Industry.

        FYI, I didn't go through the document in detail, just a quick read of its main points -I plan to give it a thorough read tonight- and is those points I don't like. Last time I read on the issue of fracking, it was a subsidized technology, so the real cost is higher than stated, but the difference is paid by taxpayers. And we are not even considering the environmental damage, which is huge and should be accounted for in any analysis of the costs incurred.

        More info here:

  66. Peter Richardson

    The other elephant in the room

    I can't believe that nobody has brought up good old Albie Bartlett yet:

    "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function"

    Produce all the oil (substitute any other non-renewable resource here) you like - it will get used up and then it's gone. The faster we produce it, the quicker it goes. We need to find ways to get off this planet ASAP, as Stephen Hawking has sagely observed. Or at the very least, look for means of bringing energy and raw materials out from the cosmos back onto Earth in a economically viable fashion, here looking towards a space elevator concept perhaps?

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: The other elephant in the room

      Oil will become renewable.

      But I'm all for space exploration.

  67. MrColdWaterOfRealityMan

    Correct, except for that little math/energy thing.

    First off, "peak oil" isn't about quantity of oil left and never has been except in the minds of those with a vested interest in telling us all not to worry our little heads about such matters.

    Second, the author of this breezy little missive might actually want to review some numbers. I'd start with the book referenced here:

    Numbers. Pesky things.

    The "Peak oil" that matters is defined by price, energy return and suppy chain viability. This is a fancy way of saying that when oil prices are high enough, and energy return on that oil low enough, the supply chains of goods and services used to find, extract, refine and deliver petroleum products breaks down.

    I'm sure I too could produce a pretty report that reassured all and sundry that there was just no problem if I ignored energy return, assumed that all available hydrocarbons could be made into useful something, made some very happy assumptions about production costs, and ignored oil price feedback in my economic models.

    Look, I'd love to believe that techno-capitalists are about to ride in and save us all with magic fusion power. I'm all for drilling more and I'm sure that nuclear power plants can be designed safely. THat said, I can do arithmetic, have a healthy skepticism of numbers generated by governments or financial institutions, and like any PC user whose system *hasn't* sped up in the last decade, am aware of diminishing returns on technology, which we've hit in the petroleum industry.

    So, I'm staying with my estimate of about 40-ish years of usable oil left, with price increases and supply shocks in our near term future. Nothing from those reliable folks at Citigroup has persuaded me otherwise.

  68. Local Group

    US military is the single largest user of oil in the world.

    The US military has it's own figures on oil production, reserves and storage. They may not be inclined to wait for the heavy crude that oil shale becomes and which takes longer to produce, longer to transport and is more expensive. When supplies run down, the military does not say: Okay, WalMart Shopper, you take 50% of the available gasoline and we'll take the other 50%.

    "The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact."

    "The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel."

    "By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis"

    1. Charles 9

      Re: US military is the single largest user of oil in the world.

      Why do you think the DoD has such an interest in synthetic petrol? It would put an immense relief in their logistics. This is especially true of the Navy, who not only have lots of jets on their aircraft carriers that all need fuel that's rather hard to come by in the middle of the ocean, but also a potential tap to use to produce more fuel for those jets (the reactors already on board said carriers).

      1. Local Group

        Re: Re: US military is the single largest user of oil in the world.

        I'm sure their interest in synthetic petrol is astronomical(?).

        I'm curious about how close they are to achieving it. And whether it will ever be available in the amount they'd require it.

  69. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    On sea level rise a brief note.

    One of the papers linked to listed a period when *all* the worlds major ice sheets had melted.

    The *total* sea level rise (listed in the paper) was IIRC 65m above *current* levels.

    Now I cannot rule out that the global supply of free water *might* have increased since then but (to a first approximation) That suggests anywhere about say 70m (from the *datum* altitude for sea level at *your* location, which varies) should pretty much cover *total* sea level rise.

    This would pretty much stuff *any* existing port city (and any underground system they might have)

    But I'm prepared to believe that leaves a pretty large chunk of land which is *not* under water.

  70. Howard T. Lewis III

    Biological v. Abiotic?

    Evaluations of abiotic oil make more sense than biological sources being responsible for its presence. Although more commonly found at subduction zones and fault lines, the deeper the oil is found, the more radioactive it is. This is one method used to determine that the oil slicks all over the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the heavier stuff on the bottom, came from the site of the Deepwater Horizon intentional well blow out of 3-11.

    1. Mobius007

      Re: Biological v. Abiotic?

      Abiotic oil is an entertaining subject. As someone who has studied (and profited) from oil depletion, I've reviewed the concept.

      I put abiotics in the same category as "drill baby drill", or the assumption that drilling technology can save us from the rapid depletion of conventional oil.

      Google "IEA peak oil 2006"

      So, please continue to promote concepts like abiotic oil - it ensures that my energy investments (particularly those in tar sand oil producers) will be very profitable for many years to come!

  71. Dylan Fahey

    You referenced a document/study from Citigroup?

    You referenced a document/study from Citigroup? And you expect people to believe it?

    You're out of your mind. Big Corp doesn't give a rats ass about the planet. Oil is running out, and our use is outstripping production. How do we know? PRICES are going up. I don't need citigroup to try and tell me different. It's a ploy to get investments into the horrible environmental fracturing business. Big business will starve us to the last customer.

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